, 05 January, 2021 / 3:22 PM
A week after general elections in the Central African Republic (CAR), a Bishop ministering in the landlocked nation says the country’s population is living “in fear and anxiety” due to the uncertainty surrounding the ongoing confrontation between armed rebels and the military forces.
“The population lives in fear and anxiety about the uncertainty of what might happen the next day,” the Bishop of Bossangoa Diocese, Nestor-Désiré Nongo-Aziagbia has been quoted as saying in a Tuesday, January 5 report.
Following the December 27 election held amid insecurity and political tensions, Bishop Nongo-Aziagbia, a member of the Society of African Missions (SMA) says the people of God in CAR are “going through a period of turbulence.”
The turbulence is due to a “resurgence of military activities and the intensification of armed clashes” between the rebels under the Coalition of Armed Groups for Change (CPC) and the Central African armed forces with the support of certain partners,” the 50-year-old Bishop says.
The Bishop who doubles as the President of the Central African Episcopal Conference (CECA) further says that armed confrontation has led to the occupation of the main supply route from Cameroon, a situation that has caused “a slowdown in economic activities in the country.”
“The supply of basic necessities is becoming problematic and there is a surge in prices on the market,” he adds in the January 5 report.
On Monday, January 4, CAR’s electoral commission announced the provisional results of the election, which showed that the incumbent President Faustin-Archange Touadera won the December 27 polls having secured over 53 percent of the votes.
“Faustin-Archange Touadera, having received the absolute majority of the vote in the first round with 53.9%, is declared winner,” the President of CAR electoral commission, Matthias Morouba was quoted as telling journalists in the capital, Bangui on January 4.
Ahead of the polls, rebel groups under the CPC launched an offensive. The December 19 move threatened to disrupt the presidential elections with the intention to “march to Bangui.”
The threats are said to be in response to a rejection by the country’s constitutional court of the candidacy of the rebels' ally, ex-president François Bozizé who wanted to challenge President Touadera.
However, the rebels who are said to control two-thirds of the landlocked country have so far been successfully barred from advancing to CAR capital by the military, UN peacekeepers and reinforcements from Russia and Rwanda.
On Sunday, January 3, the diamond-rich city of Bangassou, which falls within the territory of the Catholic Diocese of Bangassou, fell into the hands of the rebels. This was a day after another assault on the city of Damara, the hometown of President Touadera.
"Yes, Bangassou has fallen into the hands of the rebels, many of whom are mercenaries and people from Niger,” Bishop Juan José Aguirre Muñoz of Bangassou confirmed the siege in a Monday, January 4 report.
Making reference to the events of Sunday, January 3 when the town was captured, Bishop Aguirre Muñoz added, “The morning was hectic. Heavy artillery from 5 in the morning with about thirty dead and wounded.”
In the January 5 report, Bishop Nongo-Aziagbia reports, “As a precautionary measure and in order to take shelter, there is a significant flow of population displacement, either within the country or to neighboring countries, particularly DR-Congo and Cameroon.”
With the Eastern part of his Diocese affected by the conflict, the Bishop is concerned that the “ethnic and tribal dimensions” of the conflict could worsen the volatile situation.
“There are signs that the fight against armed groups at the national level could turn into a nationwide hunt for innocent people based solely on their ethnicity or political affiliation,” Bishop Nongo-Aziagbia says, cautioning that such a move “would border on a flagrant violation of human rights.”
The Central African Prelate regrets that the parties in conflict have not heeded to the December 19 call for dialogue and respect of the CAR constitution issued by Catholic Bishops in the country, a failure manifesting itself in the fact that “the logic of confrontation and war seems to prevail to this day.”
Amid the ongoing uncertainty, anxiety, and fear, “The Central African episcopate reiterates its call for peace and urges the faithful to continue to pray unceasingly for this cause. Our country is in great need of it,” the Local Ordinary of Bossangoa Diocese says.
Addressing himself to the people of God in CAR, Bishop Nongo-Aziagbia says, “The future of our country is in our hands. The choice we make can contribute to socio-economic recovery. For this, we must bury our personal egos that continue to blood the entire nation and hinder its development. Let us privilege dialogue in mutual respect.”
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